United States Secretary of Education

The United States Secretary of Education is the head of the U.S. Department of Education. The Secretary advises the President on federal policies, programs, and activities related to education in the United States. As a member of the President's Executive Cabinet, this Secretary is fifteenth in the line of succession to the presidency.

The current Education Secretary is Betsy DeVos, who was nominated by President Donald Trump and approved by the Senate on February 7, 2017.

Secretary of Education of the United States of America
Seal of the United States Department of Education
Seal of the Department of Education
Flag of the United States Secretary of Education
Flag of the Secretary of Education
Betsy DeVos official portrait
Betsy DeVos

since February 7, 2017
United States Department of Education
Style Madam Secretary
Reports to President
Seat Washington, D.C.
Appointer The President
with Senate advice and consent
Constituting instrument 20 U.S.C. § 3411
Formation November 30, 1979
First holder Shirley Hufstedler
Succession Sixteenth[1]
Deputy Deputy Secretary of Education
Salary Executive Schedule, Level 1
Website www2.ed.gov


The United States Secretary of Education is a member of the President's Cabinet and is the fifteenth in the United States presidential line of succession.[2] This Secretary deals with federal influence over education policy, and heads the U.S. Department of Education.[3]

The Secretary is advised by the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity, an advisory committee, on "matters related to accreditation and to the eligibility and certification process for institutions of higher education."[4]

List of Secretaries

Prior to the creation of the Department of Education in 1979, Education was part of the ambit of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare.


  Democratic   Republican


List of Secretaries of Health, Education, and Welfare

No. Portrait Name State of residence Took office Left office President
1 Hobby-Oveta-Culp Oveta Culp Hobby Texas April 11, 1953 July 31, 1955 Dwight D. Eisenhower
2 Folsom Marion B. Folsom New York August 2, 1955 July 31, 1958
3 ArthurSFlemming Arthur S. Flemming Ohio August 1, 1958 January 19, 1961
4 Ribicoff Abraham A. Ribicoff Connecticut January 21, 1961 July 13, 1962 John F. Kennedy
5 Celebrez Anthony J. Celebrezze Ohio July 31, 1962 August 17, 1965
Lyndon B. Johnson
6 John W. Gardner, U.S. Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare John W. Gardner California August 18, 1965 March 1, 1968
7 Wilburportrait Wilbur J. Cohen Michigan May 16, 1968 January 20, 1969
8 RobertHFinch Robert H. Finch California January 21, 1969 June 23, 1970 Richard Nixon
9 ElliotLeeRichardson Elliot L. Richardson Massachusetts June 24, 1970 January 29, 1973
10 Caspar Weinberger official photo Caspar W. Weinberger California February 12, 1973 August 8, 1975
Gerald Ford
11 F. David Mathews F. David Mathews Alabama August 8, 1975 January 20, 1977
12 JAC AR 2007 Joseph A. Califano Jr. District of Columbia January 25, 1977 August 3, 1979 Jimmy Carter
13 Patricia R. Harris Patricia Roberts Harris District of Columbia August 3, 1979 May 4, 1980[5]

List of Secretaries of Education

No. Portrait name State of Residence Took Office Left Office President
1 Shirley Hufstedler, November 12, 2007 Shirley Hufstedler California November 30, 1979 January 20, 1981 Jimmy Carter
2 Terrel Bell, 1981 Terrel Bell Utah January 22, 1981 January 20, 1985 Ronald Reagan
Bill Bennett by Gage Skidmore William Bennett New York February 6, 1985 September 20, 1988
4 Cavazos Lauro Cavazos Texas September 20, 1988 December 12, 1990
George H. W. Bush
Ted Sanders
Illinois December 12, 1990 March 22, 1991
5 LamarAlexander (cropped) Lamar Alexander Tennessee March 22, 1991 January 20, 1993
6 Richard Riley Official Department of Education Photo Richard Riley South Carolina January 21, 1993 January 20, 2001 Bill Clinton
7 Rod Paige Rod Paige Texas January 20, 2001 January 20, 2005 George W. Bush
8 Margaret Spellings, official ed photo 2 Margaret Spellings Texas January 20, 2005 January 20, 2009
9 DuncanArne Arne Duncan[6] Illinois January 21, 2009 January 1, 2016 Barack Obama
10 John B. King official portrait (cropped2) John King Jr.[6] New York January 1, 2016 March 14, 2016
March 14, 2016 January 20, 2017
No image Phil Rosenfelt
Virginia January 20, 2017 February 7, 2017 Donald Trump
11 Betsy DeVos official portrait (cropped) Betsy DeVos Michigan February 7, 2017 Incumbent

Living former Secretaries

As of May 2018, there are eight living former Secretaries of Education (with all Secretaries that have served since 1985 still living), the oldest being Lauro Cavazos (served 1988–1990, born 1927). The most recent Secretary of Education to die was Shirley Hufstedler (served 1979–1981, born 1925) on March 30, 2016. The most recently serving Secretary to die was Terrel Bell (served 1981–1985, born 1921) on June 22, 1996.

Name Term Date of birth (and age)
William Bennett 1985–1988 July 31, 1943 (age 74)
Lauro Cavazos 1988–1990 January 4, 1927 (age 91)
Lamar Alexander 1990-1993 July 6, 1940 (age 77)
Richard Riley 1993–2001 January 2, 1933 (age 85)
Rod Paige 2001–2005 June 17, 1933 (age 84)
Margaret Spellings 2005–2009 November 30, 1957 (age 60)
Arne Duncan[6] 2009–2015 November 6, 1964 (age 53)
John King Jr. 2016–2017 1975 (age 42–43)


  1. ^ https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/3/19
  2. ^ Wilson, Reid (October 20, 2013). "The Presidential order of succession". The Washington Post. Retrieved 28 December 2016.
  3. ^ "US Department of Education Principal Office Functional Statements". United States Department of Education. Retrieved 28 December 2016.
  4. ^ NACIQI Staff (November 23, 2016). "Welcome". Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Education, National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI). Retrieved November 23, 2016.
  5. ^ Harris was Secretary on May 4, 1980, when the office changed names from Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare to Secretary of Health and Human Services. Because the department merely changed names, she did not need to be confirmed again, and her term continued uninterrupted.
  6. ^ a b c Eilperin, Juliet; Layton, Lyndsey & Brown, Emma (October 2, 2015). "U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan to step down at end of year". Washington Post. Retrieved 23 November 2016.

External links

Current U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Rick Perry
as Secretary of Energy
Order of Precedence of the United States
as Secretary of Education
Succeeded by
Robert Wilkie
as Acting Secretary of Veterans Affairs
Current U.S. presidential line of succession
Preceded by
Secretary of Energy
Rick Perry
15th in line Succeeded by
Secretary of Veterans Affairs
Robert Wilkie

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